Fifth Quarter, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: +2

Ryan Merriman, Aiden Quinn, Andie McDowell. Angel City Pictures and McCreary Entertainment, and is distributed through Rocky Mountain Pictures. Written & directed by Rick Bieber.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Taking place in 2006, the film concerns the Abbate family whose youngest child, Luke,†is killed in a car accident.† During the following months, in the midst of their grief, each member attempts to cope with his or her loss. But soon Jon, Lukeís eldest brother, becomes the central figure. At first Jon struggles to escape the pain, wondering how God could allow this tragedy, but finally he comes to the conclusion that self-pity and alcohol abuse accomplish nothing. He goes back to what he knows, playing football. Only now, heís playing for two. Taking his brotherís jersey number 5, he motivates both team and stands, finally leading the home team to the best season in the schoolís history.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Itís a true story, one with spiritual elements, one that brings tears to the eyes, yet I sensed the need for more resolve both technically and emotionally. Itís a film about faith, family and football, one that incorporates Bible reading and prayer. Surprisingly, the scenes featuring the spiritual moments work best. All too often, filmmakers dealing with the dying and the dead never show anyone in their pictures reaching out to God for comfort. They steer clear of any need for spiritual intercession, seldom allowing their characters to display this element of manís nature. For his bravery in putting Bible reading and prayer on screen, writer/director Rick Bieber should be congratulated.

Alas, the script needed one more rewrite, and the production deserved more cohesive direction. Itís a touching, uplifting story, but the filmís often sloppy narrative leaves us with a made-for-church-night feel.

Let me say at this point, the production moved me to tears several times. Despite production letdowns, seeing a family pull together during times of crisis, seeing a loving salute to someone who affected a community in a positive manner and seeing the results of sacrifice that led to the extension of other lives is impacting. So often we leave a theater with our nerves pulverized, but our hearts emotionally unmoved. That wonít happen with The Fifth Quarter. Youíll wipe a tear away, embrace loved ones with the knowledge that it could be the last time, and youíll even consider organ donation in order to help others.

Itís a shame these elements were handled with a heavy hand, the filmmaker often beating you over the head with his message. Scenes run on too long, few scenes blend well, the football footage is disappointing (even though there's some actual stock ESPN footage, the overall effect is more like viewing a pre-season commercial), and my goodness, thereís a lot of speeches. I lost count of how many halftime ďplay this one for the GipperĒ homilies were uttered by coach and players. Indeed, more time is spent in the locker room and more camera attention is paid to bouncing cheerleaders than to actual game plays. Less is more and many directors and writers keep missing that point. Certainly, Mr. Bieber did.

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Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Rocky Mountain Pictures

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Five uses of the s-word and a few minor expletives.
Profanity: I caught no misuse of Godís name.
Violence: A car accident is portrayed; open heart surgery is shown.
Sexual Intercourse: It is implied that a couple live together outside marriage, but there are no sex scenes.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Lots of drinking.
Other: The film deals with the loss of a loved one.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Intended Audience: 12 and up

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